Return to Virtue

I just posted an article over at the Episcopal Cafe pointing to this wonderful lecture by the Abbot of Worth. It’s the inagural Noah Lecture (a british charity) and deals primarily with finding a theological basis for sustainable living.

The good Abbot finds his foundation in a call for all of us to return to the cardinal virtues – especially and more importantly – the prime virtue of Temperance.

From his lecture:

“So how does the metaphysics of virtue work when applied to climate change? Let’s take each of the four classical virtues in turn and look very briefly at their connection to environmental action. Firstly, fortitude: we are going to need courage to address our ecological problems. National and local communities will need courage to create a culture of environmental awareness and to take concrete steps to address climate change. Secondly, justice: justice will lead us to reach solutions that protect the weakest against the actions of the strong, so that third world countries are not left paying the ecological price for first world consumption. Thirdly, temperance: we will need to moderate our use of resources and develop technologies that enable us to use them more efficiently. Finally, prudence: we will need to act with prudence and not risk irreversible changes to the climate. At the same time, prudence requires us to recognise the benefits of industrial culture in relieving poverty, so we will not misuse the prudential principle to undermine those benefits.  The key point to note, however, is that the tradition of the virtues insists that all the virtues are operative at the same time. So simply emphasising justice is inadequate; each helps to define the other. As we shall see later, the addition of the theological virtues of faith, hope and love generates a comprehensive picture of human action that constitutes the Church’s unique contribution.

These examples are broad applications of the virtues but even these generalised insights give the missing ingredient in the current environmental debate: the virtues provide an agreed framework within which to conduct the debate about what actions we need to take in the light of climate change. Most importantly, the framework of the virtues can be used for deciding both policy questions and lifestyle issues.”

Read the full article here.

I’m so stealing this for the essay on Temperance that I’m working for our aspirants here in the Diocese of Arizona… grin.

Author: Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...